It’s no big revelation that creativity has always been an important component of marketing. But the importance of creative marketing is actually changing in a significant way that’s already affecting most marketers.
What’s causing this shift?
Gold star for guessing Artificial Intelligence (AI). The fact is, AI is already beginning to impact the day-to-day realities of how marketing is done. Whether it’s behind the scenes through software or marketers actively using generative AI tools, this shift has already moved well beyond the theoretical.
Plenty of marketers are understandably worried about what this will mean for their careers. Will copywriters, designers, and all the other creative marketing professionals soon be out of a job?
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to thrive in a world of AI-infused marketing. Take it from someone who spent a lot of 2023 deeply worried about that exact thing and who’s since “Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” so to speak.
So let’s dive into this new era of marketing and see why the best response to AI is a renewed focus on creative marketing.
What’s Creative Marketing?
The first step is to make it clear what exactly we’re talking about. Creative marketing isn’t just Mad Men style pitches. It encompasses all the creative aspects of a marketing role from writing copy to considering innovative ways to use tools. It can even encompass parts of marketing operations like developing new processes.
In other words, creative marketing isn’t something only a select few marketers do, it’s something that’s a part of all marketers’ roles. The reason why is something we’ll dive deeper into more below.
But for our purposes, it’s also important to understand what creative marketing is not. It’s not copy-pasting text from one spreadsheet to another, manually combining data for reports, or just answering emails. The distinction is worth pointing out because it’s the non-creative side of marketing that’s really getting impacted by AI.
In other words, if you’re concerned about how AI will impact your career as a marketer, it’s a distinction you need to focus on.
How AI Is Impacting Creative Marketing
While AI’s capabilities may seem radically new, it’s useful to look at it with some historical context in mind. Automation has been affecting people’s jobs for essentially all of human history. From the metal plow all the way to the modern computer, tools make individuals more productive and thereby change the nature of their work.
That’s why NASA doesn’t need to employ teams of mathematicians the way they had to when computers were in their infancy. It’s why only a tiny fraction of people in most countries are farmers while the vast majority were centuries ago.
In fact, over 90% of workers surveyed recently noted that automation made them more productive. Think about the software you use to send large numbers of emails at once, to automatically transfer data to a single spreadsheet where you can analyze it, all the ways automation already makes you a more efficient and effective marketer.
In that sense AI is a tool like any other, making all the work that doesn’t fall into the creative marketing category far more efficient. But although the “creative” abilities of generative AI get a lot of attention, even those programs still require a human to develop the right prompts.
At the end of the day, AI just isn’t creative.
You can play around with ChatGPT or a similar program for days but you’re not likely to see it write something that really moves the needle for your customers. That’s just how these programs work by design. Sure, they can create the illusion of creativity, but because their outputs are purely based on what already exists, they’re not good at generating content that’s truly unique.
For example, would an AI-generated text make a tongue-in-cheek Dr. Strangelove reference? I don’t think so. But it’s also not going to come up with genuinely innovative ideas about how to market products and services.
So what does this mean for marketers?
In short, creative marketing is becoming more and more important. AI can generate generic copy in a fraction of a second, meaning poor-quality copy is worth less than ever. But AI is never going to generate something genuinely creative that your audience is going to resonate with.
Before learning how to improve your creative marketing, why don't you take a second to get our guide on building better marketing processes?
Improving Your Creative Marketing
So if the takeaway here is that creative marketing is only going to increase in importance as AI becomes more capable and ubiquitous, how can you cultivate those skills?
Start with the Non-Creative Marketing
Ironically, it starts with getting the non-creative things right (possibly with the help of AI). For example, working with operations to improve your processes can go a long way toward ensuring you have the time, space, and resources to devote to more creative marketing.
It’s difficult to really be creative when you’re frustrated by bad processes, working on a tight deadline because you weren’t given enough lead time for your task, and unsure whether the work you’re doing is even going to matter. Luckily, Agile can help with all of these issues.
If you’ve been paying attention, you might also remember that this is the kind of marketing AI can help the most. So feel free to explore ways to streamline all your non-creative marketing work with AI so you can focus more on what’s really adding value to your organization.
Yes, Creative Marketing Can Use AI
With enough attention paid to the non-creative elements of marketing, you can really focus on improving your creative marketing. The first thing to point out here is that this can include using AI. Used well, AI is a powerful tool for augmenting human creativity.
For example, you might use generative AI to help flesh out an idea you have, or to see what it might sound like with a different tone. This kind of experimentation can help get creative juices flowing and enable you to move beyond the early phases of an idea more quickly.
You can also talk to your colleagues or manager about focusing more on creative marketing assignments. Talk about your desire to build that skillset and really focus on improving how you deliver value through that particular element of marketing. You may also want to consider courses, certifications, or other training to further improve the “toolset” you can leverage alongside your creativity.
At the end of the day, you can’t just flip a switch and get more creative, so it comes down to being deliberate, persistent, and rigorous in how you practice those creative skills.
The Importance of Experimental Design
High-quality creative marketing is great, but what makes it far more impactful is when it’s combined with good experimental design. This might sound counterintuitive, but experiments are how you test your creative ideas and quantify their impact. This enables you to iterate, learn valuable lessons, and generally improve over time.
Otherwise, it’s easy to get caught assuming that a particular piece of copy or a new approach to engaging your customers is going to work great. But the reality of what customers like is often quite different than what we expect, so it’s vitally important to always confirm assumptions and narrow down to figure out what’s really working.
Creative Marketing Examples
So what can all this look like in practice?
For example, if you’re doing Account Based Marketing (ABM) then you might try sending physical copies of high-quality resources you have to prospects at their offices. This kind of unconventional approach is something that by-the-book outbound marketers aren’t likely to try but could get the right person’s attention.
A more classic and conventional example of effective and creative marketing, for those of us who remember, is the Mac vs PC campaign, which effectively created strong ideas about what a Mac was in the minds of customers through clever humor.
Something those of us without multi-million dollar commercial budgets can look to is simply getting creative with email subject lines. Sometimes unconventional ideas can grab people’s attention and increase your open rates (just make sure you have the substance to reward that open!). Again the trick here is using effective experimental design to test what creative subject lines actually perform and which might just turn your audience away.
Start Building the Foundations of Great Creative Marketing
Teaching creativity may not be a realistic proposition, but you can learn how to get all the non-creative elements of marketing right. You can also learn how to create processes to test those creative ideas, figure out what works, and build on it. The key to all of this is Agile marketing.
That’s why we created carabiners, mini lessons on all the Agile fundamentals you need for creative marketing success. Each one is built on years of experience working with marketing teams around the world and seeing how these concepts work on the ground.
Best of all, you can try them for free! Give them a try and discover how you can supercharge your marketing career through better, more Agile creative marketing.